With so many options, finishes, weights, and colors to choose from, how do you know which paper is the best fit for your project? Taking a step back, there are many standard elements that go into deciding the right paper for your project. These typically fall into 2 main categories: weight and finish.

The majority of the projects that come through our doors use our standard “house” paper stocks, which serves a wide-variety of needs. All of our house stocks are high-quality from the industry’s top brands, so don’t worry about your project falling flat with cheap or low-quality paper. If you are looking for something a bit more out of the box, the expert team at PIP Metro Indy can help you order a custom stock to better fit your needs. 

Before we get ahead of ourselves, let’s look into the 4 selections you’ll need to make when choosing the paper for your upcoming project: 

Selection 1: Determine How This Product Is Being Used

There are a few crucial elements to consider when looking into paper options to make your dream project into reality. In addition to getting your design just right, it’s crucial to think about its usage:

  1. What are you using this final product for?
    • If this project will be directed at your end customers or prospects, you might select a higher quality stock with a few more bells and whistles (as your budget allows). If this will be circulated internally or for your own personal records, a more cost-effective stock might be a better solution.
  2. Who will be using it or handling it throughout the project’s lifespan?
    • If the project is seeing a lot of use and handling, consider a thicker paper with a coating or protection of some kind to make it last as long as possible.
  3. Will you be mailing this project?
    • If you’ll be mailing your printed pieces, we recommend keeping the weight lower to save postage costs. Just make sure to note the USPS weight and thickness regulations (Don’t worry — PIP Metro Indy can help with this!).
  4. Will the product be exposed to water, chemicals, or need to be sanitized in any way?
    • If your paper could get wet or need to be wiped down, you’ll want a paper with a built–in water resistance or additional protection such as a lamination. 
  5. Are you adding any additional elements such as a die cut, foil-stamp, or perforation to this project once it is printed?
    • If you are adding any bells and whistles, we will help you review stocks that will best support those elements to ensure they don’t punch through the paper or buckle under the weight of those elements. 
  6. Will you or your end user want to write on the printed product?
    • An uncoated stock is the best route to choose if anyone will be writing on your product with any kind of writing utensil — from pencils to permanent marker. 

While this is not an all-inclusive list, it’s a great jumping off point to thinking through often-forgotten elements that affect the overall cost of your project(s).

Selection 2: Narrow Down Your Project’s Budget

Once you have a better idea of the scope of your project and who is using it, it’s time to check the budget and see what you would like to spend on this project. Knowing your budget will help in the estimating process, as PIP Metro Indy will work with you to find the best way to produce your job and stay within the designated spend. We want you to be happy with your finished project, and we’ll make sure to communicate throughout the process to get the most bang for your buck.

The PIP Metro Indy team can help drive your project forward from idea to final piece, but there are some standard fees along the way to consider. These could include (but are not limited to):

  • Typesetting to create or edit artwork to print;
  • Press samples or hard copy proofs of certain products, including promotional items;
  • Additional finishing options such as sealing, stamping, or collating; or
  • Handling or delivery fees.

You’ll never have a surprise fee or additional charge after the fact — the PIP Metro Indy team will discuss charges and alternative solutions with you before proceeding to make sure everyone is on the same page.

While we understand budgets are tight and everyone is looking to cut costs where possible, we do offer a printing, signage, and bindery expertise that could save you and your team time and money in the long run. For example, if you are a small team with limited time before an event, it could make sense for PIP Metro Indy to do the “finishing” part of your job (whether that be collating, folding, mailing, etc.). Or, you could be launching a new product and need marketing collateral to promote with, so a print and advertising budget becomes necessary to sell the item. With PIP Metro Indy at your side, your team can focus on what you do best — your business!

Selection 3: Choose Your Paper Finish

After deciding the logistic and monetary elements of your project, our team will discuss paper finishes with you to best suit your project. Paper finishes can be either coated or uncoated. There are many options for specialty finishes and coating types within those categories, but all paper selections will be from one of these two choices. Here are a few things to consider when deciding between the two:

Coated Paper:

Coated papers have a seal or protection on top that allows you to choose between varying levels of sheen. The most common coated stocks PIP Metro Indy carries in house are gloss and satin. These paper finishes are great for products such as:

  • Magazines or Catalogs
  • Brochures
  • Direct Mail
  • Rack Cards

Because of the coating, it is harder to write on these stocks with pen and pencil while avoiding the inevitable ink smear. If you must write on the piece, our expert team has had the best success with Sharpie or permanent markers when they have time to dry. If you intend to do a lot of writing on your project, a coated paper stock would not be ideal.

Uncoated Paper:

Uncoated paper does not have any sort of coating or protection, making it an ideal choice for projects that need to be written on, run through office inkjet or laser printers, embossing, and much more. A few other common uses for uncoated paper are items such as:

  • Stationary
  • Envelopes
  • Newsletters
  • Inexpensive/short term flyers

These examples are not a ‘one size fits all.’ The expert team at PIP Metro Indy help review your project details to help make the best paper decision for your usage. We’d be happy to discuss printing samples for you to compare how your project looks on different paper coatings. These will help you better visualize how your end product will look before you are ready to proceed.

Selection 4: Choose Your Paper Weight

The final step in defining the specifications for your project is choosing the paper weight that will bring your vision to life.

Paper Weight:

There are a few ways to measure paper weight based on ream size and how the paper brand is defined. However, paper weight really boils down to a simple rule of thumb: the higher the number, the heavier the paper is. Here are a few examples of stocks PIP Metro Indy carries and common usages:

  • 60# Text: this is our standard uncoated, text weight paper that is great for quick prints, booklets, documents, etc.
  • 100# Text: this is used for brochures, handouts, flyers, and more.
  • 16PT Cover: this is commonly used for business cards, rack cards, presentation covers, etc.

If you’d like more details or want to compare between different paper choices, check out this handy chart (courtesy of Micro Format, Inc).

Cover vs. Text:

Within the paper weight definitions, you’ll also need to let us know if you are looking for text weight or cover weight. As shown in the example above, text weight stocks are thinner and more flexible — often being used for flyers, inside pages of a booklet, stationary, etc. On the other hand, cover weight stocks are more durable and rigid than text weight stocks. Cover weight paper is most commonly used for business cards, postcards, covers for books, etc.

It’s important to choose the right weight for your end project. Here are a few examples of reasons to choose text vs. cover:

  • Die-cutting and foil stamping need to be on a thicker cover weight paper.
  • Postcards and EDDM mail pieces need to be thick enough to pass USPS requirements, but not too heavy to help keep the weight and postage down.
  • If you are printing letterhead on your office printer, you will likely want it on a thinner text weight paper.
  • If you are adding a perforation to your document, it’s best to stick to a light to medium weight stock to make it easy to tear off.
  • A booklet or catalog usually includes a heavier weight cover stock on the cover and text weight paper for the inside components.

There are a lot of factors to decide between when it comes to paperweight and thickness that affect the end result of your project. However, don’t be overwhelmed! The PIP Metro Indy team can help by reviewing your files and talking through your project specifications to see what the best selection is.

Paper Selection FAQ’s & Additional Considerations

Should I use a colored paper or print my color on white stock (flood color)?

PIP Metro Indy doesn’t regularly carry colored paper in house, so there is a longer turnaround time and additional fees to order the stock for your project. Additionally, printing on colored stock can change how the contents are displayed based on the color of the paper and often result in muddy prints. If you flood a color to print on white stock, you can create a fully custom color to match your project’s needs, and you can better control how your print will look after all is said and done. Plus, colored paper only comes in so many colors, so flood color printing is typically the only choice for your unique color. 

Why are custom stocks more expensive?

We get contract pricing and larger discounts on stocks we carry in-house that will get passed along to you. We stock a lot of great papers in house that will likely fit your needs, so often times our customers choose to skip the custom stocks all together and save money on their project. 

However, custom stocks are just like they sound — custom. They come directly from the paper house and come with a few factors that are harder for us to control. For example, they often take longer to arrive than stocks we order frequently, there are additional shipping and handling fees to get it to our location, or it could be back-ordered for an indefinite amount of time. All of these factors can drive the price fairly high.

What kind of paper can I write on?

PIP Metro Indy recommends any uncoated stock for writing. The lack of coating or finishing allows you to use all kinds of ink (pen, pencil, marker, etc.) without any issues. You can write on coated stocks, but more often than not, it smears or may not work with all kinds of ink. If your project is heavily dependent on end users writing on the product, we recommend testing the stock before printing your entire project; we’d be happy to run a sample for you.

What paper is the most durable you carry?

We carry a synthetic/plastic paper that is water-resistant and tear-proof that is our most durable stock. It prints just like paper and can be used for all kinds of projects that need something long-lasting. However, if you don’t need something quite so sturdy, you can use a thick paper to withstand high-touch uses.

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